With the lack of originality currently being seen in movie and TV land it’s safe to assume no source material is safe. If there’s a buck to be made, you can bet that someone somewhere is willing to throw it up on a screen. It comes as no surprise then that producers were also willing to borrow from Internet Creepypasta in Syfy’s new anthology series, Channel Zero.
When Channel Zero was first announced my eyes rolled so far into the back of my skull I went temporarily blind. But after seeing the trailer for its first season, I decided to give the show a chance, and to Channel Zero’s credit they decided to use one of the better Creepypasta: Candle Cove.
If you’re not familiar with the original story it’s a quick and interesting read, but to sum it up Candle Cove is a short story written in forum posts about a creepy children’s show that may or may not have existed. With that in mind, I was left wondering how exactly Channel Zero could stretch that out to a full series.
Episode one begins with a child psychologist, Mike Painter, being interviewed on some talk show about his life, including the murder of his twin brother Eddie when they were 12. After attempting to answer a phone call from a child, the staff of the show turns into puppets. The child on the phone giggles manically and Mike wakes up in bed, knowing he has to return home to face his demons.
Mike does return to his hometown and stays with his mother while he visits an old friend, now sheriff, at the police station. He asks to look over the files of the five children who were murdered (Eddie included) and when questioned why, he lies and says he’s writing a book. Later that evening, the group of friends reminisce about old times and when Mike notices the sheriff’s daughter watching a strange show, he questions the group about Candle Cove—with the writing more or less the same as the forum posts in the original story.
After a series of weird, disjointed and badly edited flashbacks to Mike and his Brother in the 80s, Mike realizes that there may have been more to Candle Cove than he thought, and that the children’s show may have just been a major player in the murders. It’s now up to Mike to solve the mystery and stop the murders from happening again.
As far as a series premiere goes, Channel Zero didn’t start out all the strong. The acting was far too wooden and all the characters seemed uncomfortable. Mike’s mother didn’t seem all that pleased to see him, saying she was happy despite the awkward monotone voice. The character of Mike is far too reserved for my liking. Despite the trauma he endured as a child, his hiding of the past and what he’s doing just doesn’t make any sense. I know he didn’t want to go back home but he could be a least a little happy to see his friends. Speaking of his friends, there’s no sight of them in his flashbacks. The only other kids shown besides Mike and Eddie are a group of bullies. If these friends were so close, where were they when Mike and Eddie were bullied?
The editing between scenes was jarring and distracting, especially with the flashbacks. Why are we cutting to Eddie getting his arm broken? What purpose did that serve? Some of these scenes work all right (like Mike remembering his psychotic episode) but most of the cuts were a pointless attempt to keep the viewer on their toes like American Horror Story.
What Channel Zero has going for it is that it already has a decent story to follow and so far, following that story is working. The writers didn’t change too much and the bigger plot they’ve added is creepy and interesting. The isolated and dark atmosphere really unnerved me and was a nice change from cheap jump scares.
The biggest issue with episode one of Channel Zero is that it’s trying way too hard to be , but when the writing allows it to be its own thing, it’s great. Channel Zero needs to take a step back and breathe and shouldn’t feel so much pressure to be like other horror shows. It needs to loosen up and just be itself.
Despite its meh premiere, Channel Zero deserves a chance. Here’s hoping the actors and writing finally slip into the pool after getting their toes wet. I look forward to seeing how this story pans out.